During Covid, the EU Commission set up an SME Fund as a grant scheme aimed to provide financial support to EU Small and Medium sized enterprises (SME’s) to protect their intellectual property rights. This SME Fund is implemented by the EUIPO (European Union Intellectual Property Office) with the support of national IP offices and may be utilized for national and EU applications as well as international registrations. It was originally provided for trademark and design applications; however, it has now been expanded to cover also national patent applications in all EU member states. The EUIPO has received over 28,000 applications from startups and SMEs since the initiative began in 2021. SMEs can save up to €2,250 on IP protection utilizing the SME fund.
Protecting IP rights offers rightholders legal protection, exclusivity and a strong and competitive advantage on the market. New sources of income (e.g. licensing, sales, co-branding agreements) may be developed through high-value IP. IP protection is considered critical for business growth and, from the beginning, startups need to identify their IP assets and include an IP strategy in their business plans to maximise their IP potential.
The SME fund provides for 2 types of vouchers:
Trademark & Design
|National & EU Applications
|National applications only
Procedure for funding:
Step 1: Apply for the SME grant
The SME Fund is for SMEs established within the European Union. The applications may be filed by the owner or an authorized representative of the SME. Applications may only be filed once per year per SME.
The application process is simple and will require the submission of the following documents:
- Bank statement containing the IBAN details of the SME
- VAT registration certificate of the SME
- ‘Declaration of Honour’ signed by the owner, in cases where a representative of the SME is filing the application on behalf of the SME
Step 2: Wait for the grant to be awarded
The EUIPO will review the application and award the grant within 15 days from the application.
Once the grant is awarded, a voucher will be issued which will need to be utilized within 4 months (may be extended for another 2 months) from the moment the grant is received.
It is important to utilize the vouchers within this validity period as otherwise the funds will be allocated back to the SME fund.
Step 3: Apply for IP registrations & pay the applicable fees
Once the grant has been awarded, the SME can then proceed to file the IP applications (e.g. a trademark application) with the national office or the EUIPO. It is important to note that the relative fees due for the filing of the IP application need to be paid in full and a receipt obtained.
Step 4: Apply for reimbursement
With proof of payment of the IP application, the SME can then proceed to activate the voucher and apply for reimbursement. The estimated timeframe from this reimbursement is 15 -30 days and the funds will be directly paid into the bank account of the SME.